Terri Madden’s September/October 2016 article for Marine Fabricator Magazine.
Approaching a project with cylinder cushions is kind of like trying to put a square peg into a round hole, you have to approach the solution by thinking “outside of the box”. The box being what we are familiar with when constructing cushions – foam in rectangular shapes, cushion covers with standard size side bands and upper and lower faces of equal dimensions. Ok, so you’re starting to get the picture, or you’ve visited a job site and been requested to fabricate cylinder cushions; all of the sudden you’re walking on uncharted territory. You can approach the challenge by welcoming it as a learning opportunity and break down the stages into manageable sections. If there are multiple pieces, you’re already a step ahead as fabricating more than one piece will add to your profit ratio.
Over the years we’ve been asked to fabricate several unusual items that may or may not be a product that we have no way of knowing if it will be a “one hit wonder” or an item that will “take the market by storm”. A while back we started charging a prototype fee, a few hundred dollars to develop and fabricate a concept for a customer, a prototype then goes to a set price based on the final quantity. We consider the customer and this price sheet found on the Internet:
I design everything – $100
I design – You watch – $200
I design – You advise – $300
I design – You help – $500
You design – I help – $800
You design – I advise – $1300
You design – I watch – $2100
You design everything – $3,400
This pricing may or may not apply to your project, yet do consider the learning curve if you’ve never fabricated a cylinder that will attach to tubing. I recommend setting aside several hours of uninterrupted time to develop the concept and fabricate prototypes in order to evolve the best solution when you do not have a pattern or a good existing cover that you can take apart for your project. When you build this factor into your project, the understanding that you are being compensated for your talent, will inspire your solutions and result in an award worthy project.
If the customer wants to use existing cylinder foam, evaluate how the foam shape has conformed to the original covers and if at all possible, move forward with new foam. This is very important as the old foam may need a topper in order to properly “fill out” a new cover! You can order dry-fast foam cylinders, cut to size, available in three densities of firmness, including the cut-out for the tube in the cylinder center. On the illustrated sketch you can see the diagram we submitted when we ordered new foam from Reliatex Inc. They have facilities in Jacksonville, Tampa and Miami, Florida. Be sure to allow sufficient lead-time for any supplier to cut and ship your product.
Getting Ready to go for the Gold
Ok, so now you’ve analyzed the task, the quantity and style of cylinder cushions, and determined a price that you and your customer find agreeable.
When we measured the original cylinders we realized that they were all slightly different lengths and that one standard size would work well within the tubing frame spaces. Additionally, a standard size would be less production time vs. custom sizes and the overall project would be more visually appealing. We include an extra 1/2″ more or less for our finished foam size (based on the foam density) when ordering new foam, so that the foam “fills out” the cushion cover.
As the actual time for fabrication approaches, having the foam cylinders on-hand is essential for proper pattern placement and achieving the best final fit.
For this project we approached the cylinder design and prototypes without an original pattern, since the original covers were not the quality that we would replicate. Now our basic guidelines were our roadmap to reach our goal to design and fabricate tasty cylinder covers to fit over the stainless tubing; cylinders with an 8” diameter and a length of 27”. It was now in our hands to make removable covers for 4 cylinders with inserts in medium density foam, which would provide sufficient for firmness for seat backs so guests could enjoy relaxing moments while at sea.
In the past we fabricated jacuzzi pool cushions on tubing that helped us in our approach for this project. The jacuzzi cushions were designed for a more permanent location, whereas the cylinders for this project needed to be removable by the crew on a 42’ catamaran.
- We started with the round ends first. The circles were cut to include a 1/2″ seam. We cut two – 8” circles of vinyl for each side. We generally cut our foam and material the same size in order for the foam to “fill-out” the cushion cover after the seam allowance reduces the cushion size.
- We placed the vinyl circles face to face.
- On the inside of the vinyl we marked the center hole for the tubing cut-out and a line for an opening along 1/2 of the diameter for an access opening, when the finished cylinder would need to be placed over the tube.
- We stitched along outside of indicator line for the opening slit, around the circle for the tubing and down the other outside line for the opening slit.
- We cut next to the stitching between the lines for the access opening and around the center hole – removing the excess at the center hole.
- We turned the layers to the right side and top stitched the layer opening “in place”. Then we trimmed the inner facing layer as seen in the photos.
- The cylinder ends would secure closed with a Velcro flap whereas the center of the cylinder would incorporate a #5 jacket zipper. The tails of the jacket zipper would hide inside of the sides of the cylinder and be accessed via the Velcro opening and closing next to the tubing.
- A piece of 2” Male Velcro formed the flap as one edge of the Velcro was sewn to one side of the opening under the tube hole and a piece of 1” Female Marine Velcro was sewn to the other side of the 4″ opening. This insured that the area would hold tight in a closed position when the cylinder was placed on the tube. See photo.
I’ve included a few photos of the Jacuzzi cushion that was made with the zippers extending into the side ends showing the stitching sequence & pole placement cut-outs, which were underneath of cushion zipper.
- The cylinder center was measured and cut with seam allowances included for the zipper.
- The two ends of the cylinder were sewn to the center panel
- The jacket zipper was sewn to a turned edge of the center panel, leaving a 3″ tail at each end, where the cylinder side ends met the center panel.
- The foam was inserted into the cover (we spray a dry silicone when inserting foam into covers, as it reduces the resistance of the foam and material).
I included photos of a unique striped canvas cylinder project that we observed on a vessel, cushion covers definitely in need of replacement, yet the vessel was not in San Juan for the project to be realized.
The finished cylinder could be easily placed on the tubing, inserting the foam over the tubing, closing the zipper (tucking the zipper ends into the foam and securing the end circles via the Velcro. By carefully maneuvering the foam at the cylinder ends the male and female Velcro would secure/close the space below the tubing to where the zipper connected. The end result was sleek cylinders with hidden access areas for easy removal and installation. Additionally, at the time of installation we wrapped the tubing with nonskid to hold the cylinders “in-place”, as the original cylinders had unsightly zippers, which displaced to various locations on the tubing.
Not only were we proud to deliver a handsome project, the captain and owner were equally pleased. The design and fabrication process is in our library of cushion styles and will certainly be a valuable example when the time comes to reproduce cylinders that fit into and on special spaces that require Stylized Solutions!